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A dream experience for these baseball fans


By Earl Vaughan Jr.

Retired Fayetteville neonatologist Dr. Tom Ciszek has been a Chicago White Sox fan since he attended his first game in 1957 at the age of 6. 

But it took a series of events to allow him to experience one of the greatest nights in team history recently, a trip to the Field of Dreams game between the White Sox and New York Yankees at the famed field in Dyersville, Iowa, where the movie of the same name was filmed.

For Ciszek and his son Tommy, who made the trip with him, it started when he ordered White Sox season tickets last year. He renewed the tickets this year, which earned him a spot in a lottery for the chance to get tickets to the Field of Dreams game.

It was only days before the game that the elder Ciszek got word he had won the lottery and had two tickets to go. That meant a scramble for son Tommy, who works for a robotics firm in Santa Monica, California. 

The two rendezvoused at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, then drove the nearly four hours to Dyersville, which is near Dubuque.

The game itself was not played on the actual Field of Dreams, but in an 8,000-seat stadium next to the field that was built for the game. Most of the stadium will be taken down, leaving only the field, dugouts and a few other things so it doesn’t interfere with view of the actual Field of Dreams. Major league baseball recently announced plans for another Field of Dreams game in 2022 between the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds.

The actual Field of Dreams is open to the public at no charge. The adjacent house that was used in the movie is open for tours.

“You can walk out and play on the field,’’ Dr. Ciszek said. “People come and go. You don’t stay all day. You can walk through the corn.’’

The actual cornfield in the Field of Dreams outfield is real, not artificial, Dr. Ciszek said. A central part of the film was when the so-called ghost players of the 1919 White Sox walked out of the corn in the movie to play on the field.

Dr. Ciszek said he heard the small stadium that was constructed adjacent to the Field of Dreams was built to the dimensions of the White Sox original Comiskey Park home. 

His son Tommy said the whole experience was a dream come true for his dad. “It was like a movie,’’ Tommy said. “You can’t make it up. They did a fabulous job putting it together.’’

Tommy said no bags were allowed when entering the facility, so he brought only two things, a camera and his baseball glove. He and his dad shared a game of catch on the Field of Dreams outfield.

“It was like being in the movie,’’ Tommy said. “I can’t even describe it. They had the ghost players from the movie. It was 95 degrees, and they were there in their wool baseball uniforms.’’

While the overall experience was great, everything wasn’t perfect. Tommy wound up spending almost two hours standing in line at the swamped concession stand. He said the scene at the end of the movie, where a line of cars jammed the highway leading into the Field of Dreams, was recreated for real as fans came to the game.

“Dyersville, Iowa, is not build for 10,000 plus people to show up anytime,’’ Tommy said. “Having 10,000 people show up to a cornfield anywhere is going to cause some congestion.’’

The game itself proved a fitting climax to the evening. The White Sox led most of the way until the Yankees rallied to take the lead late on a couple of home runs.

But in the ninth, Chicago’s Tim Anderson belted a walk-off homer to clinch the win.

“It was priceless, magical, to see all the home runs fly over the fence and hit the corn,’’ Tommy said. “I need to watch the replay on television to see it actually happened.’’

Tommy got another surprise when he got home and opened one of the packs of baseball cards the Topps people were selling at the game.

“Tim Anderson’s baseball card was in there,’’ he said.

Dr. Ciszek best summed up the whole experience. “It was a miracle day,’’ he said.

• I first met Vernon Walworth when he was an assistant coach at Jack Britt High School, and I was a guest speaker at the N.C. High School Athletic Association’s Student Athlete Summer Institute at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. 

It was easy to see Walworth cared about students, based on the time he spent at SASI, which was about mentoring young people and had little to do with actual coaching.

Walworth, who was most recently coaching at Hoke County, recently passed away.

Scotland football coach Richard Bailey, who was on the original coaching staff with Walworth at Jack Britt High School, remembered Walworth as the kind of coach who would do anything asked of him.

“He had a dry sense of humor and was a realist,’’ Bailey said. “He always said he was just being honest. But he made things fun around the coaches’ office and was always reliable. You could count on Vernon.’’

In addition to coaching football, Walworth was a wrestling coach and earned national recognition in the sport. In 2019, he was named the National Wrestling Coaches Assocaition girls’ wrestling coach of the year